Tuesday 8 April 2008

MomoLondon: Mobile User Experience

Last night’s Mobile Monday London was themed on the Mobile User Experience.

Taptu — Steve Ives (CEO & Founder)

  • Live since last October — preparation since April
  • Aim to get mobile search used several times a day rather than
  • Company expertise: mobile user experience (ex-Trigenix) + search algorithms (with experience from Cambridge Computer Lab)

UI design process

12 months, 14 user studies (2 day sessions with 10 users spending an hour each)

  1. concepts
  2. paper prototypes
  3. device prototypes (static pages)
    • used for user studies
  4. two other steps… (can anyone fill them in here)

Main tenets:

  • don’t assume
  • listen to users
  • iterate often


Built up a fair amount of detail about 4 personas.

  • 20, iPod generation
  • 32, careerist power user
  • 23, unwired social (not a lot of access to the internet during the day or evening)
    • mobile internet is primary access to internet
    • particularly large in Asia
  • 27, digerati — bloggers, influencers
    • 10% size of others but very influential


Paper prototypes done by photocopying framework with title, options and back then annotated.

Device prototypes — high fidelity, device-specific, pixel perfect (no software engineering required)


Three core families, each with different user experience design

  1. low: 176x220
  2. mid: QVGA
  3. high: iPhone

Graphic design comes from within company — authentic and fast turnaround

UE Testing

They set up a portable user-experience lab, since testing users in London (and they’re based in Cambridge). This consisted of a laptop, a portable mixing desk, two video cameras and a microphone. They could take this to any meeting room and hold user testing.

Two cameras: one aimed at user’s face, other mounted on handset; both mixed & recorded together with a separate microphone. Results in movie showing user reaction in a picture in picture format.

Totally regular event to run a user study — expensive and time-consuming, but have committed to do this.

Human Factors International — Scott Weiss

He wrote a book: “Handheld Useability” in 2002

Moving to “persuasive design”: are your users going to come back?

A good way to determine persuasive design is eye tracking, but this doesn’t work on mobile as the eye trackers require a stationary device.

“The minimum number of design & feedback cycles is 3”

If user testing a phone, don’t sit right next to them and breathe down their neck. Instead, sit opposite them and make them show you the phone if they need to.

Moving from design-time to runtime: Future Platforms — Bryan Rieger

Bryan was addressing the disconnect between designers and developers during and towards the end of the design process. The designers come up with something that looks wonderful and flows beautifully, but if the developers just take the assets directly from these mockups, then the application would run like a dog on mobile. The assets would be too large to load quickly and the device would run out of memory.

  • Think about assets, custom fonts, icons for different states.
  • Specify paddings, margins and use native drawing capabilities.
  • Use composite images — combine resources in device rather than beforehand.
    • e.g. transparency overlay, shading for selection, etc

For example, FP reduced the resources in the Locomatrix app from 12K to 2.87K — massively improved performance and could now work on a lower-memory device such as a Motorola PEBL.

Control Java design based on constants provided in a resource file.

The designers and the developers must work together.

Some of this can be used in mobile web as well, especially if the device has CSS2 & CSS3 capabilities.

Panel session notes

“Institutionalizing useability” — book on Amazon for getting user testing introduced into a company

WebX — sharing presentations for remote teams

Design for the mass market if you want to be successful — this means that the interface will need to work on constrained devices (e.g. pepperoniti — most widely used mobile social networking tool, has very primitive UI)

How do you design for location-based interactions? Or RFID or other? FuturePlatforms are trying but are struggling — the tools don’t help, so they’re using sketches and notes on the walls.

In Apple, the chief designer reports to the CEO — that doesn’t happen very often in other companies.

What’s your good (and bad) UI experiences?

  • Marek: N95 Google Reader
    • simple, one graphic, making best use of browser, loads very quickly
  • Scott Weiss: bad user experience — RAZR, almost destroyed a company
    • four soft keys
    • took off menu soft key too late
    • industrial design was spectacular, but user experience was terrible
  • Taptu:
    • BMW idrive — terrible
    • Phillippe Starck video on TED: simplifying product design
  • Bryan Rieger: love the iPhone
    • some of the worst user experiences coming out of Korea to try and copy it (LG & Samsung)
    • touch screen, but some of the screen isn’t touch sensitive and the buttons change under your fingers

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